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Save our Sight Say Optometrists

3 September 2002

Save our Sight Say Optometrists

At least 20 percent of New Zealanders could have been saved from blindness if they had had their eyes checked early enough.

Regular eye examinations by an optometrist can Save our Sight. That is the simple key message of a month-long campaign throughout September, spearheaded by the New Zealand Association of Optometrists (NZAO).

"Regular exams can diagnose sight threatening eye conditions so they can be treated and save sight before it is lost," says NZAO National Director Dr Lesley Frederikson.

"Diseases which can lead to blindness such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma can be easily detected by your optometrist. And if found early enough, they can be treated and sight saved.

"But treatments can only stop the loss of vision. They cannot restore sight that has already been lost. That's why it is so important people have their eyes examined regularly before irreversible damage occurs."

The campaign has the support of Prime Minister Helen Clark, who endorses the month long campaign.

"If New Zealanders are serious about preventing blindness, they should have their eyes checked regularly. Vision loss is a misfortune, especially if it is avoidable," she said.

The Save our Sight campaign will be officially launched at Parliament on Tuesday September 3. Ministers along with MPs and Beehive staff will be invited to have their fundus (back of the eye) photographed and encouraged to take the photos to their own optometrist to be analysed.

"The fundus photograph can be used to screen for early detection of sight loss associated with eye disease," Dr Frederikson says.

Around 81,500 New Zealand adults and 13,200 New Zealand children are blind or have a sight impairment that cannot be corrected by glasses or contact lenses.

The numbers of people facing the threat of blindness from age-related eye disease are expected to double over the next 30 years as the Baby Boomer generation ages.

"Early treatment is critical to the success of therapy and this is particularly important in respect of macular degeneration which is affecting a further 2000 New Zealanders every year," Dr Frederikson says. Different activities have been planned for each week of September. The first week is the campaign launch. The second week will focus on diabetes with support from Diabetes NZ, the third week on children's vision and early intervention and the last week will focus on Retina Awareness Week with emphasis on age-related macular degeneration. The NZAO is supported by the Royal Foundation for the Blind, Retina New Zealand, Diabetes New Zealand and the Save Sight Society, in the campaign to encourage New Zealanders to protect their sight.

...ends/

For further information:

Simon McLellan Communications Officer New Zealand Association of Optometrists Tel: 04 473-2322 Mob: 025 408-936

Dr Lesley Frederikson National Director New Zealand Association of Optometrists 04 473 2322 021 679 278

Andrew Sangster President New Zealand Association of Optometrists 04 472 4010 025 605 4381

***

Media Release

29 August 2002

SOS from NZAO to fight eye health epidemic
More New Zealanders than ever are facing the threat of blindness. Age-related macular degeneration, diabetes and glaucoma are robbing people of sight in epidemic proportions says the New Zealand Association of Optometrists (NZAO).
To combat this epidemic NZAO, together with the Royal Foundation for the Blind, Retina New Zealand, Diabetes New Zealand and the Save Sight Society, is staging a month-long campaign in September to raise New Zealanders’ awareness of eye health.
The Save Our Sight (SOS) campaign runs from September 1 to 30, promoting the importance of regular eye checks by optometrists which can help prevent blindness and detect the early onset of diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetes.
“The numbers of people facing the threat of blindness from age-related eye disease are expected to double over the next 30 years as the Baby Boomer generation ages,” says NZAO National Director, Dr Lesley Frederikson.
“It is believed that 20 percent of blindness in New Zealand is preventable. Ophthalmologists can now treat previously untreatable conditions such as AMD thanks to the recent advances in eye therapies.
“The annual global number of new cases of AMD is similar to the number of prostate and breast cancer cases. However, AMD is not yet recognised as a high priority health issue,” Dr Frederikson said.
As reported in the 2001 New Zealand Disability Survey conducted by Statistics New Zealand, an estimated 81,500 New Zealand adults and 13,200 children are blind or had a sight impairment that could not be corrected by glasses or contact lenses.
During each week of September, the SOS campaign will focus on different aspects of eye health. The first week will see the general launch of the campaign. The second week will highlight diabetes with support from Diabetes New Zealand, the third week concentrates on children’s vision and early intervention and the last week will focus on Retina Awareness Week with emphasis on age-related eye conditions including macular degeneration.

Ends
Media contact
Dr Lesley Frederikson
National Director
New Zealand Association of Optometrists
04 473 2322
021 679 278

***

The Great NZ Eye Test

Take this simple yes or no test to find out if you or someone in your family should have an eye examination. If you answer "yes" to more than one question, or you have not seen your optometrist in over a year, it's probably time to schedule an appointment. Unique eye and vision conditions exist for seniors, and children. This test serves as a quick overview for all populations.


Do you experience:
Yes No

Difficulty reading small print, seeing to doing crafts
Headaches or have tired, burning eyes after reading or
working on a computer
Difficulty seeing at night or seeing street signs while driving
Irritated, dry, red or sensitive eyes
Spots, flashes of light, or floaters in your field of vision


Yes No
Do you:

Have diabetes
Have a family history of glaucoma
Attend school and have difficulty in reading or learning
Have a family history of lazy eye, week vision, or eye disease
Handle chemicals, use power tools, or engage in sports
that may be hazardous to your eyes

Even if you answered "no" to these questions, keep in mind that symptoms of eye disease and vision problems are not always apparent. Eye exams by an optometrists can help you be certain that your eyes are healthy and functioning properly.

***

SAVE OUR SIGHT – KEY MESSAGES:

More New Zealanders than ever are facing the threat of blindness.

Diabetes, Glaucoma, and Age Related Macular Degeneration are robbing people of sight in epidemic proportions.

The numbers of people facing threat of blindness from age-related eye disease are expected to double over the next 30 years as the Baby Boomer generation ages.

Blindness and loss of sight from most eye diseases and disorders can be reduced with early detection and treatment.

The most important preventative measure is for people to have regular eye examinations by an optometrist.

Around 81,500 New Zealand adults and 13,200 New Zealand Children are blind or have a sight impairment that cannot be corrected by glasses or contact lenses.

For at least 20% of the people registered with the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind their blindness was preventable.

Treatments are available for most causes of sight loss including Diabetic Retinopathy, Glaucoma, and Age-related Macular Degeneration. However, treatments will only arrest the loss of vision and are not able to restore sight that has already been lost.

Early treatment is critical to the success of therapy and this is particularly important in respect of Macular Degeneration which is affecting a further 2000 New Zealanders every year.

For sight threatening eye conditions it is imperative to diagnose early, treat early, and save sight before it is lost.

AND FOR CHILDREN:

Amblyopia affects nearly 4% of our children and leads to permanent loss of sight if not corrected before age 6.

Sight impairment affects one sixth of our children ages 5 to 12 and limits their ability to learn, to read, and to play sport.

Astigmatism, myopia, hyperopia, phorias and tropias are common sight impairments affecting children.

With 80% of children’s learning being done visually the finding and fixing of sight impairment is critical.

Early detection and correction of sight problems is essential because development of the visual system is complete by the age of nine.

New Zealand Association of Optometrists Inc
Royal NZ Foundation for the Blind
Retina NZ
Diabetes NZ
Save Sight Society

***

DIABETES NEW ZEALAND

27 August, 2002

Shut your eyes to diabetes and you could end up blind

Without careful management of their diabetes, thousands of New Zealanders are at risk of permanently losing their eyesight through diabetic retinopathy, a disease that affects the small blood vessels in the retina, leading to loss of vision and in extreme cases, total blindness.

To maintain healthy eyesight, people with diabetes need to manage their condition carefully, so getting regular eye checks is essential says Diabetes New Zealand.

Diabetes retinopathy is the leading cause of preventable blindness in people aged 40-64 years of age, and is also the most common cause of sight loss in Maori and Pacific Peoples in New Zealand. Around one third of the 115,000 New Zealanders with diagnosed diabetes have lost some of their vision, and research from Diabetes New Zealand shows that it is the greatest fear amongst those known to have diabetes.

Of particular concern, says Diabetes New Zealand, is that many people do not realise they have had diabetes for many years until their eyesight has already been damaged. Current estimates are that for every person with diabetes there is another person with undiagnosed diabetes.

If people at risk of diabetes had been checked for diabetes earlier they could have avoided or significantly delayed the onset of complications such as visual impairment, blindness, and the other complications of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and limb amputation.

So the message is simple. If you have diabetes, get your eyes checked regularly. And, if you are at risk of diabetes, see your doctor or nurse and be tested for diabetes.

Facts about diabetes
The Ministry of Health estimates that the incidence of diabetes will increase by 31% to one in 22 European/ Pakeha adults, and by 50% to one in six Maori or Pacific Island adults by 2020. Much of the growth in diabetes can be attributed to growth in Type 2 diabetes, which affects over 80 percent of people with diabetes and is a product of a modern lifestyle – poor diet and a lack of exercise.

Who’s at risk of diabetes?
- European descent and over 40 years of age.
- Maori, Pacific Island or Asian descent and over 30 years of age.
- Overweight.
- Family history of diabetes.
- Given birth to large babies (9lbs/4kg or over).
- High blood glucose levels during pregnancy.
- High cholesterol or high blood pressure.

Diabetes and Sight
LOSS OF VISION IS LARGELY PREVENTABLE

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
High blood sugar levels can weaken the blood vessels in the eye’s retina, which can leak blood or fluid. This causes the macula (part of the retina) to swell and form deposits that can lead to vision loss - macular edema. Blood sugar levels can also promote the growth of new fragile blood vessels on the retina, which can break easily and leak into the retina - proliferative retinopathy. If proliferative retinopathy goes undetected and untreated, serious visual loss will occur in more than 50% of those affected.
Symptoms
Diabetic retinopathy often has no early symptoms. There may be some blurred vision when the macula swells from the leaking fluid. But often vision does not change until the retinopathy has progressed to the proliferative stage, which is why regular eye exams are so important for people with diabetes. Initially there may be spots floating in your vision that come and go. Later vision may become cloudy.
Detection
- A visual acuity test using eye charts to measure how well people can see at various distances.
- A comprehensive dilated eye exam.
- Examination of the retina by ophthalmoscopy or fundal photography to see if there is any damage to the optic nerve.
- Tonometry - fluid pressure of the eye is tested through the use of a tonometer or other methods.
- A fluorescein angiography where special dye is injected into the arm and pictures are taken as the dye passes through the blood vessels.
Treatment
Laser surgery is used to treat severe macular edema and proliferative retinopathy. Surgery, called vitrectomy, may take place if cloudy vision or scarring.

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